We explain the America’s Cup to come (and its weaknesses)


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All about money. It appears that the 35th edition of the America’s Cup will be staged with a set budget, for the teams, of about $80 million. Under the last Cup, to be competitive, one had to spend at least 100, and Oracle Team USA put 200 if not more on the table. What is not clear, however, is how that budget will be managed and how the new format may lead to cost cutting. They are all waiting for Oracle to communicate, on the basis of the Deed of Gift (literally, “Deed of Gift,” in a nutshell the “Constitution” of the Cup), its choices on period, location, format, type of boat: without knowing all this, potential challengers do not possess the elements to decide whether or not to participate in the campaign. (photo at right by Gilles Martin-Raget)

In any case, Oracle and the Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club. in the person of Australian wine magnate Bob Oatley (fresh winner, oer the seventh time, of the Sydney Hobart on the last Wild Oats), Are working to lay the groundwork for the new protocol And rumors begin to circulate. Here is what the America’s Cup of the future will look like in 7 points, according to NZ Herald columnist Paul Lewis.

1. CATAMARANS EQUIPPED WITH 60-65-foot FOIL: A bit smaller than the AC72s, but still capable of being as spectacular as in the 34th edition. They will be able to have crews of 7-9 people (as opposed to AC72’s 11), reducing costs.

2. MORE COMMON ELEMENTS IN DESIGN: This should drastically reduce the importance of the design factor. Both rigid wings and hulls could be one design, and this would eliminate the need for teams to rely on large designers. Foils and their control system shouldbe the only two areas left open to the “creativity” of designers. Thus expenses for the design and construction phase would be cut. People are usually the ones who represent the greatest cost to teams.

3. MORE PARTICIPANTS: There are already signs of interest in participating from Emirates Team New Zealand, Artemis and Luna Rossa in addition to the Australian union. The British team led by Sir Ben Ainslie appears to be very close to reaching its campaign budget, and this will be known soon. There is also a powerful French pool gathering under the Yacht Club de France banner, although nothing is yet known about its financial readiness, and thus the possibility of launching a boat. So, at best, six challengers could come out, or perhaps a few more.

4. “GLOBAL” REGATAS: Apparently Larry Ellison (the owner of Oracle Team USA) wants each Cup challenger to host a regatta in their own country: so between 2015 and 2016 there could be regattas in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Britain, and France. Each union would promote their event financially, lessening the burden on Oracle and Ellison himself.

5. NEW BOATS FOR SERIES: As part of these events, the AC45s used in the Series of the last Cup or otherwise similar boats could be used, but this time equipped with foils to increase their spectacularity and to further tie these events to the main one, i.e., the challenge between Defender and Challenger.

6. ELIMINATORY REGATES: To be held in San Francisco in 2017. The proposal calls for the top four challengers from the 2015 and 2016 Series to qualify for the Louis Vuitton Cup, where Oracle’s Challenger will then be determined. Thus, the four selected teams will have about a year to build their 60 (or 65) feet for the Cup.

7. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SERIES: Item 6 reveals how much the locations for the Series will matter compared to the previous edition of the America’s Cup, where all competitors competed in San Francisco. This would reduce costs as it would allow the highlight event (preliminaries and finals) to be concentrated in a shorter time: Russell Coutts recounted how in the last Cups many teams were not competitive and were only there to make up the numbers. A “problem” that would be solved with the new system of the four best teams.

russell-couttsTHE BUDGET PROBLEM
Let’s return to the budget issue for a moment: if the prediction to cap the budget at $80 million comes true (according to some sources, Ellison has told Russell Coutts to work with that figure in mind, and it seems unlikely that he will allow challengers to spend more) It is unclear how teams will be able to stay within that amount by building an AC45 to be transported around the world and then the AC65. Coutts said large savings could be achieved from the combined use of bases and facilities but was not very clear. Moreover, it would certainly not be convenient for sponsors to invest millions of dollars in a campaign until participation in the Louis Vuitton elimination rounds was certain. There are those who argue that Ellison and Coutts are waving the cost-cutting flag to save money on their campaign, without worrying too much about the number of opponents. But let’s not forget that the last America’s Cup, despite an adrenaline-fueled finish that will remain etched in history, had only three competitive boats (Luna Rossa, Team New Zealand, and Oracle): the Americans’ interest is to make the world’s most famous regatta regain credibility. The sailing people would not stand for another edition that ends up turning out to be a match race between those with the most money. So we believe, for now, in the cost-saver good intentions of Coutts and Ellison.

Other rumors want Larry Ellison, furious with the jury that “investigated” Oracle for “cheating” (based on allegations that the foil stabilization system was not regular) in the last edition (Ellison came out clean), is willing to Establish an independent commissioner to adjudicate technical and legal disputes. In fact, the 34th America’s Cup jury did its job well, with many decisions in favor of Team New Zealand and others, such as the crucial one not to disqualify Oracle for irregularities, favorable to the Yankees. The fear (but beware, we are basing this on an article written by a New Zealander) is that an independent commissioner appointed by Ellison would not be that independent. In addition, Oracle would go against ISAF (the International Sailing Federation) under whose rules the Cup is staged. We will know more when the protocol is made public (presumably in March).

Eugene Ruocco



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